INTERVIEW: Pagan Altar makes US debut at Maryland Deathfest

Pagan Altar

Think traditional heavy metal, and you should be thinking of the band Pagan Altar. Pagan Altar will play the 2013 Maryland Deathfest Sunday, May 26 at one of the former Sonar compound stages. This will be the first time Pagan Altar performs in the U.S.

Founded in the UK in the mid 1970s, this father-son project has a rich history of producing occult infused heaviness accompanied by equally theatrical stage presentations. The group logged just one cassette demo recording in 1982. Bootlegs of the demo helped spread the word. The band played a lot of gigs and, over time, Pagan Altar accrued a cult-like following, although mostly within the UK.

In 1998, the six demo songs were re-released on CD as Volume 1 by Oracle Records. With the advent of the Internet, interest in Pagan Altar began to spread rapidly beyond the confines of Great Britain. The bulk of their recordings have occurred in the 2000s.

Vocalist and lyricist Terry Jones is distinctive in the genre. To me it sounds like a cross between Steve Winwood and a young Ozzy Osbourne. His son, lead guitarist Alan Jones, authors the heavy riff-laden music. Second guitar duties go to Vince Hempstead, Dean Alexander plays drums and Liam Gallagher plays bass.

Always mysterious and ever heavy, the sounds of Pagan Altar will lure you into their darkened realm. The music is simple, melodic and unaffected but never boring. Each song builds layer upon layer until you get caught up in their spell.

Vince Hempstead graciously responded to a few questions.

How long has this current lineup been together? 
This line up has been together for one year although I have been with the band for two years, Dean for nearly four years; Terry and Alan are the only original members.

What would you say is an essential Pagan Altar recording? 
“The Rising of the Dark Lord” seems very popular and has had the most YouTube hits out of all the tracks so we are going to be playing that track at MDF as it has never been played before with the current line up and has only been played once before ever live.

How does your band feel about playing Maryland Deathfest? What have you heard about this festival?
We are all very excited and honored, as we have heard it is the biggest and best metal festival in USA with constant great bands playing.

What other bands playing MDF do you hope to see perform? 
We are very much looking forward to seeing Manilla Road and were happy that there set is the same day as ours.

Will you be doing other shows as part of your stop at MDF or is this appearance exclusive?
The agreement for our appearance is this would be an exclusive show, but we aim to come back in the future for smaller shows.

Will there be any unusual or special merchandize you will be selling while at MDF?
Most of the merchandise will be arranged for us, but we are bringing some new silver logo/head pendants with us that were handmade by the ex-bassist Diccon Harper. Also we are planning to have a special MDF/Pagan Altar t-shirt made just for that gig.

Is there anything else you hope to do while you are in Maryland? Eat crabs? Go to the Chesapeake Bay?
We are just happy to come and visit Maryland but the Chesapeake Bay would be a bonus if we could take time out to visit.

Is there anything else you want people to know about your band? Any new records coming up?
At the moment we are working hard to complete the new album Never Quite Dead, and this is our main priority. Any new news will be posted on our band Facebook page. 

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